ο κατεχων αρτι εως εκ μεσου γενηται [TR - undisputed] 2 Thess 2: 7 (b)

... only he who now letteth (will let), until he be taken out of the way. [KJV]

... he who restrains at present until out of [the] midst he be [gone]. [EGNT 1 ]

... only he who is keeping down now, will hinder till he may be out of the way. [YLT]

  • The first verb - κατηχω

The verb κατηχεω has the meaning of inform, instruct, teach as used and listed eight times in scripture (YAC 3). This is an outgoing process : expressive.

The 'partner' to this expressive verb is the more reflexive verb, κατηχω, and this is the verb actually used in this passage.

The verb in 2 Thess 2:6 (here used in the nom. sing. masc. part.pres. act. see BAGL 2 ) is κατεχω and has a more inward concept of receptiveness and retaining. It is used nineteen times in scripture and is translated in a variety of ways in the KJV, among them 'hold', 'hold fast', 'keep', 'possess' and 'withhold' (YAC 3).

But it seems that in all of these meanings, there is never a case of one 'holding' another or someone 'restraining' someone else : except that it has been rendered in this particular verse. Otherwise, the verb appears to be a reflexive corollary to its partner κατηχεω.

  • The second verb - γινομαι

The verb γινομαι (here used in the 3 pers. sing. aor. 2, subj. see BAGL 2 ) means 'to come', 'to become', 'to begin to be' (Thayer) when applied to a person. 'Come to pass' or 'happen', when applied to events.

  • εκ μεσου

And, notably, only the EGNT has properly translated εκ μεσου as 'out of [the] midst' the others seeming to bend this construction to suit their own viewpoint.

It seems to me that liberties have been taken with the second verb, translators adding 'taken out of the way' or 'gone' or 'out of the way' all of which extend the verb 'to be or become' into another dimension of being 'removed away' which meaning is not present in the original word.

And it seems to me that liberties have also been taken with the first verb in the implication that another agent is acting to 'let' or 'restrain' or to 'keep down' the party under consideration.

The bare words seem to me to mean :

... only who now refrains until out of [the] midst he be.

Or, to be more fully idiomatic in English :

... only who now restrains (himself) until out of the midst he be (revealed).

It seems to me that this sentence has been misunderstood. That the concept in Paul's mind is one of an entity lurking in the midst, restraining himself, not drawing attention (though he be lawless, see context) but eventually his lawlessness cannot be hidden any longer and, in the midst, he is now revealed to have been resident all the time.

This is akin to the shocking situation expressed by John in the Apocalypse, having seen it in vision, of a beast that rises up out of the sea. Already there, already forming - then become formed and visible. Or akin to the beast, in the same visionary book of Revelation, which was and is not : and yet is. Still there, lurking, but unknown. Seeming to have vanished. But still present, just not recognised.

Have the translators misunderstood this verse in 2 Thessalonians and mis-rendered the concept ?

  1. EGNT - Englishman's Greek New testament
  2. BAGL - Bagster's Anaytical Greek Lexicon
  3. YAC - Young's Analytical Concordance
  • ESV Comments on 2 Thessalonians 2:5-8: The man of lawlessness cannot be unveiled while what is restraining (Greek to katechon, neuter participle of katecho, “to prevent, hinder, restrain”) him now is at work. In verse 7 Paul refers to he who now restrains (Greek ho katechon, masculine participle of the same word). Is that accurate, or even relevant? Just asking...
    – Lesley
    Jul 4 '20 at 16:45
  • @Lesley That's the whole point. The ESV comments are making κατεχω into an active 'restraint' by another party. The verb is reflexive (restrain self). 'He who now restrains' is the same as 'the one who is revealed'. That was my argument, above.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 4 '20 at 19:04
  • 1
    Appreciate your insights with regard to "He who now restrains" being the same as "the one who is revealed". It's just that I'm a complete dunce when it comes to grammar (honest). The risk with Bible commentaries is the temptation to blindly accept the views presented instead of challenging interpretations. Time to mend my ways.
    – Lesley
    Jul 5 '20 at 8:10

Your question sent me searching amongst various Bible commentaries for various translations, and it seems to be as you suggest – all the translations I consulted supported the view that there is one who allows, until that one is taken out of the way; he hinders until he is taken out of the way, then this evil party is unrestrained for a short season.

According to your examination of the Greek words in verses six and seven, there is reason to suppose that “Paul had in mind an entity lurking in the midst, restraining himself, not drawing attention (though he be lawless) but eventually his lawlessness cannot be hidden any longer and, in the midst, he is now revealed to have been resident all the time.”

Yes, there is something shocking about such a view, and if it be correct, then it should serve as a wake-up call to Christians, to look within the Church, so as to be prepared for the revealing of this lawless one from within their own midst. The traditional view might encourage laxness, as if, “It’s not up to us to look out for this because it was held back, but now God has revealed the matter and the identity of this one who God will take out of the way; it's obvious to us, now.” On the other hand, if Christians were alert to such lawlessness already being in their midst, camouflaged, as it were, then they would be more alarmed and concerned to search it out. They would not be caught without a leg to stand on when this lawlessness is suddenly exposed, as having been hiding in opaque sight. It would not turn out to be a Trojan Horse to those who grasped Paul’s meaning, as you express it.

I checked a commentary that is over 300 years old, and of such high repute that it is said “Whitefield read them through four times, the last time on his knees” (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia). I saw comments on those verses that simultaneously state a traditional view yet actually allow for your point, that this enemy is still within. It all depends on whether you read his comments as written only 200 years after the Reformation, or as still awaiting this full ‘revealing’ in the 21st century.

Matthew Henry writes of the Roman Empire’s power as

“preventing the advances of the bishops of Rome to that height of tyranny to which soon afterwards they arrived. This mystery of iniquity was gradually to arrive at its height; and so it was in effect that the universal corruption of doctrine and worship in the Romish church came in by degrees, and the usurpation of the bishops of Rome was gradual, not all at once; and thus the mystery of iniquity did the more easily, and almost insensibly, prevail. The apostle justly calls it a mystery of iniquity, because wicked designs and actions were concealed under false shows and pretences, at least they were concealed from the common view and observation. By pretended devotion, superstition and idolatry were advanced; and, by a pretended zeal for God and his glory, bigotry and persecution were promoted. And he tells us that this mystery of iniquity did even then begin, or did already work… Pride, ambition, and worldly interest of church pastors and church-rulers, as in Diotrephes and others, were the early working of the mystery of iniquity, which, by degrees, came to that prodigious height which has been visible in the church of Rome.” [page1881, column 3]

Now, a problem with that is our being 500 years removed from the Reformation, and the reformed church showing growing signs of that very pride, ambition, worldly interest, superstition and idolatry that Henry spoke of in his day, elsewhere. Henry gives the impression that he viewed the church of the Reformation as not having the iniquity and lawlessness in its midst that he wished to expose in Catholicism. I suppose that he believed that the expos`e of Catholic iniquity had already happened – it was ‘revealed’ via the Reformation – and he may have been expecting God’s judgment to fall on that any day. But what if the mystery of iniquity has gone on to corrupt some areas of that break-away? How awful to be found so busy pointing the spiritual finger at one large group, that the same sins were creeping in, unnoticed, into your own camp!

You raise the possibility that the warning in 2 Thessalonians has a link with the warning in the Apocalypse vision of chapter 13. Certainly, as you put it, “a beast that rises up out of the sea. Already there, already forming - then become formed and visible. Or akin to the beast, in the same visionary book of Revelation, which was and is not : and yet is. Still there, lurking, but unknown. Seeming to have vanished. But still present, just not recognised.” Lends new meaning to “resident evil”.

Yes, I would see good reason to say that Paul’s concept in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 has been misunderstood. Your word study on verses six and seven has made a strong case for that.

  • Thank you for a thorough and thoughtful analysis. Up-voted and accepted. Appreciated.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 1 '20 at 15:15

In v.6, and 7, Paul goes from the "what" (neuter), in restraining, which most likely is the active force (spirit) of God & Jesus through the Apostles, that restrains/holds down the Man of Lawlessness, whoever that may be in Paul's day, to projecting forward in time with regard to the future (end time) M of L, whoever that may be.

The nominative, masculine, pronoun "he", or more precisely "the(one)" in v.7, comes after the concession that lawlessness is already at work and points towards a different kind of limitation, with regard to that that restrains/holds down. "He", "the(one)", rather than being a singular person, may well be referring to a singular entity (of persons), acting as the restraint. The future (end time) M of L, is to be restrained by this entity, but only for awhile.

In the Ryrie Study (NASB) Bible, Ryrie speculates as to who this restrainer might be, holding back the M of L, immediately/shortly prior to Christ's second appearance/coming:-

  1. Some understand the restrainer to be...God indwelling His church by the Holy Spirit, while others...

  2. ...see "Human Government" as the restraint.

According to the former view, the removal will be at the rapture of the church (1 Thess, 4:13-18); according to the latter, at the overthrow of human government by Antichrist, aka Man of Lawlessness.

So the entity that is "holding down" in v.6, we see, could very well not be the same entity "holding down" in v.7. the one "holding down right now (that is in the end times) until it is not... until it..."might come to be (taken) out of (the) midst".

  • @Nigel J-The answer of course precedes the P of S. I only added the P of S as it speaks to part of the actual answer, that part that speaks to "Human Government" being the "End Times" constraint. It also speaks to the possible "Apostasy" that may be referenced. The question will be, I suppose, as to whether I have theorized, or simply expressed a personal opinion. Verse 8 goes on to say that the lawless one will be revealed and slain by the breath of Jesus at the 2nd coming. Verse 11 speaks to a (lawless) "deluding influence", and Trump is nothing if not deluding. If the shoe fits... Jun 26 '20 at 4:25
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    @Nigel-I will of course respect the moderators decision. Jun 26 '20 at 4:28
  • @Soldarnal-Edit accepted. I'm honored by your intervention. I somehow got an up vote too. I don't suppose you know anything about that ??? Jul 2 '20 at 22:21

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